VOLUNTEERS who have spent the past five years looking after a council car park are once again fighting the introduction of parking charges.
After Warwickshire County Council (WCC) unsuccessfully tried to bring in a pay and display system at Stratford Greenway in 2010, a group of residents agreed to take responsibility for locking and unlocking the Seven Meadows Road car park each day.
The volunteers – who open the car park even on Christmas Day – believe they have saved the council some £30,000 by doing the job for free over the past five years.
But WCC are once again proposing to charge people for using the car park – for the third time since 2007.
Volunteer spokesman Mike Watkins said: “We are hopeful once again the proposals will not go ahead due to opposition from the group and also the town council, who, as well as myself, are writing a letter to object to the current proposals.
“The council has demonstrated a repeated determination over the last eight years to impose something it knows is vehemently opposed by local residents and council taxpayers.”
The group are also concerned the introduction of parking charges – which could range from 50p for one hour to £3 for the day – would deter people from visiting the Greenway and push visitors to park on nearby residential streets.
Mr Watkins said: “The Greenway is a community place where people go for family days out, to see friends and even to quickly to walk their dogs. People won’t want to go to the land during their lunchbreak to walk their pets if they have to stop and pay for tickets.
“We believe introducing parking charges would also cause a problem for residents living on the likes of Old Town Mews and Weatherby Way because people will just park there instead.
“The county council say all other country parks have paid parking, but none of these parks are so close to the town centre and streets. It is bound to impact on people living nearby.”
County councillor Jennifer Fradgley plans to speak at the cabinet meeting about the proposals.
She told the Observer: “The group have given their time for free to open and close the car park every day of the year. They have done this for many years. Now the only reward they are faced with for this is to have cars parking on their streets because they don’t want to pay for a ticket.
“They already have a number of commuters parking there so it could turn into a real problem.”
But WCC say the parking charges should be introduced to help reach savings targets.
Council environment spokesman Coun Jeff Clarke said: “Like all of the county council’s services, Warwickshire’s five country parks and three greenways must meet some challenging savings targets. One way of mitigating the need for service reduction and enable us to continue to provide the facilities that residents deserve is to raise more income.
“Parking is charged for at all other WCC county parks, so introducing a parking charge at Stratford Greenway would bring the site into line with the rest of the countryside service.
“Our experience elsewhere is that when charges are reasonable, customers regard the facilities as providing very good value for money.”
The issue to set to be considered by the county council on July 16.